Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee MK Simcha Rothman was “trampling” protocol by debating laws connected to the controversial judicial reform even before receiving a legal opinion from the committee’s own legal adviser, the opposition Knesset members in the committee said in a press conference outside of the committee room on Monday.
The boycott began on Sunday, and they will continue to boycott the committee until the adviser gives his opinion regarding the proposed laws, the MKs said.
The MKs were Gilad Kariv (Labor), Orit Farkash-Hacohen (National Unity), Yoav Segalovitz (Yesh Atid), Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid) and Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash-Ta’al).
The committee last week debated a provision in the law that would limit the authorities of the Attorney-General and the government ministries’ legal advisors. However, Rothman announced last week that this week’s debates would focus on a different law that included the other parts of the reform – amendments to the Basic Law: The Judiciary pertaining to the Judicial Appointments Committee, the Reasonableness Clause and the Override Clause.
Rothman put out a draft of these amendments on Tuesday evening, but this did not give the committee’s legal advisor Gur Bligh time to write his opinion on it. Laws are usually brought forwards along with the legal advisor’s opinion, and the opposition therefore argued that Rothman was intentionally holding hollow discussions in order to put on a façade that in-depth debates were taking place.
“In Committee chairman [Religious Zionist Party MK Simcha] Rothman and Justice Minister [Yariv] Levin’s amok, they forgot to behave according to the rules.”
Sunday’s boycott continues into Monday
The opposition MKs refused to be “props in a play,” they said in Monday’s press conference, adding that they would “stand like a fortified wall against the attempts to launch a judicial coup d’etat.”
Elharrar said that “In Committee chairman [Religious Zionist Party MK Simcha] Rothman and Justice Minister [Yariv] Levin’s amok, they forgot to behave according to the rules.”
Kariv added that if Rothman ends up “obliging” to the opposition MKs’ demand to speed up the legal opinion’s insertion into the law proposal, it would only be because of the boycott.
Rothman on Sunday believed the MKs who were not present.
“I understand their hearts, they needed a few days off and we are patiently waiting for them, maybe because they shouted in the streets that they are not able to speak, they don’t have the strength to shout where the decisions are made. “
Rothman’s proposal last week included a number of changes relative to an earlier proposal put out by Justice Minister Yariv Levin. The opposition MKs argued in the press conference that the reason Rothman put out the new draft was because the coalition was unwilling to wait for Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara to write her opinion regarding Levin’s law. Laws proposed by ministers include an opinion by the AG, and Baharav-Miara said it would take her office a number of weeks to write his opinion. Levin accused her of intentionally delaying the legislation.
The opposition MKs argued that the fact that the coalition was not willing to wait also served as proof that they wanted to rush the reform and not actually hold a debate. Moreover, the fact that Rothman’s proposition was different from Levin’s showed that the coalition was acting so hastily that it had not even worked out its own proposal.
Within the committee room, the legal advisor to the court system, Barak Lazer, argued that the reforms were more fitted to pass within the framework of a new basic law on legislation, and not Basic Law: The Judiciary, which dealt with the courts and the judicial system. Lazer suggested that the reason the coalition was not choosing this option was because it would take more time.
Rothman disagreed, and argued that the reform was indeed appropriate for the Basic Law: The Judiciary, since it dealt with the limits of the judicial system’s power vis-à-vis the Knesset.
Lazer also criticized the proposal to change the Judicial Appointments Committee so that the coalition had a majority. He argued that the current system developed over 70 years and did not need fixing.
Lazer described the appointment process. Judges need to pass an interview with a three-person subcommittee composed of members of the larger committee. If they pass the interview, they participate in an evaluation seminar that lasts a few days, in which candidates are evaluated by sitting and retired judges and by psychologists. Only if they pass the seminar their names enter the candidate database, out of which the committee makes its appointments.
Lazer argued that this process was thorough and balanced, and did not require reform.